Fall 2023 – The Lonely Road of Discipleship (Trip to Peru)

Sometimes following Christ is not easy and we have to rely completely upon Him instead of human consolation. But we are never truly alone. Though invisible to us, God always remains with us along with His Angels and Saints. Visible to us we have our brothers and sisters in Christ on earth. Sometimes we are called to journey alone in the dark trusting at the end of the road there will be an eternal reward. 


In this song I tried to capture the sacrifices that can be involved in following Christ. As a married man with children, I need to be there for my family in many ways. It is my job to provide for them and to be present to them. I also need to be a model of authentic Christianity, so that their idea of discipleship is concrete and real.

Over the past couple of months, Calena and I have been reflecting upon the will of God for our lives as a young family. Living up north in the woods has had its challenges and blessings. We ultimately decided to visit two places to see if God was opening a new door for our family. In this blog I will detail my first journey, which was to the country of Peru. 

After performing this concert in Sugar Bush, WI, I left my family for a week to visit a Catholic Mission in Peru. For over a year I had been in contact with my friend Taylor (originally from Wisconsin) who now lives in Peru. To keep the trip simple and economical, I decided to go alone. Calena and I were on the same page, open to the possibility of maybe making Peru our new home as foreign missionaries. 

It was quite an adventure just to get there! My original flight was set to leave at 3:30PM from Chicago to Miami, and then overnight I would fly from Miami to Peru. Well my first flight was canceled! For some time I was considering to just cancel the trip and head back home. But after some discussion, I decided to not give up. My only financially friendly option was to wait until 3:00AM to depart for a layover in Mexico City. I struck up quite a few fun conversations in the airport during that 12 hour wait! It was amazing to see people of all different cultures in the airport. 

From Mexico City I then flew in the morning to Lima, Peru. My first impression of Peru was “Where is the grass?!” Everything around the airport was industrial buildings and dirt. I later learned that once you get out of the area surrounding the airport Lima is a lot nicer. The picture below shows first (at the top) the airport area and then (on the bottom) a different part of the Lima coastline that I never saw.

The Lima airport was chaotic and loud. In the food court, there were like 3,000 people and it seemed like everyone was talking! I met a young man from England a little bit younger than me and we had a great conversation. We laughed about the craziness of the airport. We talked about faith and music. I wished him a safe trip to Machu Piccu, where he was planning to hike and stay in hostels for the next week or so. I didn’t go there but wow it seems like quite the place to visit. (See picture below)

From Lima, I journeyed on a little bit smaller plane to Tarapoto. On the flight, I sat next to a young man from Peru about 25 years old. He only spoke spanish and toward the end of the flight I managed to get over my shyness and struck up a simple conversation. I discovered that he made his living from organizing Chicken fights! “Yo soy un musician,” I explained to him still getting over the shock of his profession. 

After landing, Taylor Schmidt, my friend and the founder of the Servants of the Good Help, picked me up. It was now evening and dark. Tarapoto is so close to the equator that everyday of the year is basically the same amount of sunlight and the same temperature, which is about 90 degrees. There are some periods of months where it rains a lot and some where it is much more dry. I was there during the dry time.

By the way, Taylor and Katie Schmidt, along with their seven kids have lived in Peru as Catholic foreign missionaries for about nine years. For the past five years, they have owned a property in the mountains of the Amazon Jungle. Their mission is called “The Servants of the Good Help.” 

The name is inspired by the approved Marian apparition from 1859 that took place in Champion, Wisconsin. Mary appeared to a young Belgian girl named Adele and introduced herself as the “Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners”. Among other things, she gave Adele a mission to “gather the children in this wild country to teach them what they should know for salvation. Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the cross, and how to approach the sacraments.” 

They take this mission given to Adele and apply it to the people of Peru.

Up and up we drove on the rough roads until we arrived at his property. Situated on the edge of the Amazon rainforest, it’s a unique location. He told me the water in the faucet was completely fine for me to drink. I settled into my apartment and slept well. It had been a long journey. 

On Saturdays they have a family day. I slept in and had breakfast on my own and took in the sights of the place, now viewing everything in the light of the day. The first thing I noticed was the contrast of being in the sun versus being in the shade. It is a dramatic difference, feeling like 10-15 degrees cooler in the shade. 

Saturday is the day for them to do things that remind them of home and Wisconsin. We played cornhole, ate some cheese, listened to music from our childhoods, and hit golfballs into the valley. It was fun and had a very strong Sunday feel to it, for the following day we would be more active.

The next morning, we woke up and traveled to one of the rural communities to do a liturgy of the word service. The unique part about it was that we didn’t drive. We didn’t walk. We took mules! These offsprings of male donkeys and female horses are stronger, healthier, and more loyal than their parents.

It was a very hilly adventure. I led the music for the opening and closing hymn, as well as during communion. I sang the verses in english and did the chorus’ in simple spanish. They were my original songs. The church was very simple with dirt floors and a big crucifix. Taylor was encouraging them to finish the door so that the church would be fully enclosed. He told me with a laugh that the people actually respect you more if you chastise them giving a reflection or talk. A little different than back in the states haha. The journey took about 70 minutes to get there each way on the mules.

In the evening, after a nap, we traveled down the mountain to Cuñumbuqui to attend evening Mass. Since it is at a much lower elevation than where Taylor lives, it was quite a bit hotter. They are currently in the process of making a brand new church so Mass was held in the indoor courtyard within the office/rectory building of the parish. It was extremely hot with no fans. The priest made a very funny joke about how lucky he was to be able to wear such warm vestments on such a cold evening. I enjoyed meeting the priest, who was from Peru.

That night, Taylor, his sons, and I stayed overnight at the Church courtyard office/rectory. I had my own room. The only window in the room went into the courtyard. There was very little wind that night and none came in through the courtyard. There was no fan anywhere to turn on. My body was not used to the heat. It was the hottest night of my life. I eventually went to the kitchen and wetted a towel and slept with it on my forehead to cool myself off. 

On Monday, we traveled in the morning from Cuñumbuqui to Nuevo Celendin, a beautiful smaller village surrounded by some beautiful rolling hills. I was happy to meet Boris (in picture below), a strong Catholic guy who helps Taylor with youth and family catechesis meetings. He also helps run a restaurant with his mom, which we enjoyed eating at. 

The youth meeting that was planned for that day was canceled by a Peruvian celebration Taylor was unaware of that happened the previous day. We used the time to play music together. Boris plays the Peruvian bombo drum. You can see him playing it in the beginning of my video I will share at the end of this post. 

From there we traveled to back into Tarapoto to do some shopping. They have the equivalents of Walmart and Home Depot in one big building but two separate stores. Very similar to the USA. It is a newer construction. In the middle of the day we traveled to Las Cararatas de Ahuashiyacu, a famous beautiful waterfall that is just a 15 minute hike from the road. It was impressive and fun. The water was refreshing. The average high in Tarapoto throughout the whole year ranges from 89 degrees to 94!


In the evening, I shared my testimony and vocatian story with the marriage group in Nuevo Celendin. Taylor translated for me where I couldn’t find the words in spanish, which was most of it. It was very well received and it was a great experience for me. I felt very welcomed in their presence.

On Tuesday, we stayed home and explored Taylor’s land. Besides mules, he also has alpaca, chickens, and cows. He also grows a ton of pineapples and bananas, among other crops. While staying there, I enjoyed the homegrown fruit a lot! He lives in a higher elevation, so the temperature is typically 5-10 degrees cooler each day than in Tarapoto. At night it was a lot more comfortable sleeping temperature.

On Wednesday, we headed to Bellavista to visit the Catholic school. I was able to introduce myself to the students and share some of my music in spanglish. Again, the verses were in english as I had figured out how to do some of the chorus’ to my songs in spanish. The joy of the children was impressive and again I felt very welcomed by everyone – both students and staff. Another great experience. 

Later in the day we went to visit Juan at his hardware store. He is a generous and important man both in his community and for the Servants of the Good Help. To make a long story short, when Taylor and his family had almost given up and moved back to the states, Juan built his family a beautiful home on the land where his mission center resides. As far as I know, the house was a gift from Juan. It is a beautiful home that could one day be turned into a convent or monastery. Juan saw the presence of the Schmidt family as very important for the people of Peru. Besides the house, Juan has helped Taylor (with the help of his mission partner donors) to construct a Mission Center and a big housing building that has 4 apartments and two big group bunk rooms. 

We were also able to spend time with Fr. Fran that day. He showed us his parish church (beautiful!) and we shared a lunch with him at the parish offices. He is a missionary priest from Spain. He has helped to make the Catholic school a great school for the kids. He proudly showed us a new project he was helping to complete, an outdoor amphitheater/sports court. (You can see the outside of it in the background of the second picture). 

On Thursday, we visited a dying man named Andres. We prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet with him and remained with him to give him words of comfort. He ended up dying a week after my visit. May his soul rest in peace. May we all use our remaining time on earth wisely. Boris was able to travel on his motorcycle to visit the Mission Center, his first time making the 90 minute trek into the mountains. I had an extensive conversation with him that stretched my brain, as he only knows very basic English so most of it was in Spanish. Despite our language struggles, we had a wonderful conversation, covering topics of religion, politics, and details of our lives. It was a great evening. Later on we practiced music and I even recorded vocals for my song (The Lonely Road of Discipleship), teaching him some recording tips.

On Friday, I helped Taylor and Katie organize the newly finished office buildings at the Mission Center. We moved furniture and office supplies and they got their computer set up. They are hoping to make a podcast. 

Later, with Taylor and Katie, I had a dinner with them in Tarapoto. They discussed what it could look like for my family to join them in their mission. Afterwards, I headed back to the airport and made my way home. Here is the video of my trip. 

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